In the Fall of 2010, Dan Savage and Terry Miller launched the itgetsbetter.org, after several incidents of LGBTQIA+ students being bullied led to multiple suicides during the course of that year. At the heart of their campaign was a simple premise, using the power of YouTube to create videos for LGBTQIA+ youth who were currently facing difficulty with bullying, with the message ‘It Get’s Better’. Within a matter of months the It Get’s Better Project took over the web as a slurry of celebrities and major corporations including Disney, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Pixar came out in support of the project and filmed videos with their LGBTQIA+ identified employees, and their accounts of bullying and how, now as an adult life had gotten better for them.
Unfortunately for Savage and Co. a positive slogan and celebrity endorsements has lead to few actual policy changes. While many schools have adopted a Zero Tolerance Policy with regards to bullying of any kind, bullying at school is only a fraction of the equation and more often than not this zero tolerance policy is poorly, if at all, enforced. Worse still for far too many in the community this message came too little and far too late. Further more the specific focus on bullying towards gay and lesbian youth, with seemingly little to no mention of LGBTQIA+ persons who identify as bisexual, trans, non binary, gender queer or anywhere else on the gender identity and sexuality spectrums alienates large swaths of the community.
It is the simplicity of the idea that, at some indiscriminate time in your future things will look up, that makes the message at best, a heartwarming yet disingenuous attempt at ‘change’ and at worst facile. To suggest that if you could only hold on for one more day, ‘the sun will come out tomorrow’ (which is in essence, the theory behind it get’s better if you break it down) undermines the very reality of what it is like for LGBTQIA+ persons growing up in households where they are not treated with kindness, love, and compassion. Its oversimplified idea that high school is short, and once it’s over everything will turn around completely misses the fact that high school ending is not the end of harassment for many in the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those who are trans and gender nonconforming.
It’s simply not acceptable to suggest that things will get better, some day, we don’t know when but it will someday. While corporations and celebrities offering their support is a beautiful message, it does not help the small town trans girl, growing up in a religious household where she is constantly either ignored or outright psychologically tortured, and forced into reparative therapy or other dangerous religious zealotry in the hopes of ‘curing’ their child. These messages do not help the girl who fell in love with her best friend, who now hates her, and is receiving constant messages on social media and through email and text calling her a dyke. This does not help those outside of America, many of whom are killed or imprisoned by their government for being gay or trans.
In light of the recent death of Leelah Alcorn, and far too many like her, some of whom ended their lives and some of whom had their lives ended for them, the simple message of it get’s better is no longer acceptable. We need to do better. Especially within the LGBTQIA+ community. We owe it to ourselves, and to our youth, and to those who have died to make sure that we can stand here, out loud and proud, to make sure that their lives were not for nothing. We owe it to them, to the all too often forgotten, to give their life meaning.
It was Leelah’s wish that her death be added to the number of trans suicides for this year. The exact figures are tricky to calculate, but it’s estimated that somewhere between 42-50% of trans people will attempt or succeed in committing suicide. That’s fucked up, moreover it’s unacceptable. Leelah deserved better, the LGBTQIA+ community deserves better. If you or someone you know is LGBTQIA+ and is contemplating suicide, please contact:
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
The Trevor Project Crisis Hotline: 866-488-7386.
In closing: I am Narcissa Deville I’m a trans woman, author, blogger, and graphic designer, huge Madonna fan, lover of all things RuPaul, makeup addict and I am a #RealLiveTransAdult.